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ETpro's avatar

What do you give someone who always gives you money or a gift card?

Asked by ETpro (34428points) December 16th, 2012

My dad used to always just send me a check for Christmas. It left me in a quandary as to what to do in return for him. Should I use his money to buy him a gift. We were living on opposite coasts at the time, so I had no idea what he might need or want. Should I buy him a gift card with his money? Sure I could use money from my own bank account, but money is fungible. The ultimate inanity would be to send him a check in return. Should it be for more money than he sent me? Would that make him feel bad? How about sending less? How would that go down? If I sent the same amount he gave me, the reality would be nobody but the banks involved and the post office gained anything from the exchange.

How do you resolve distant giving to loved ones whose wants and needs are unknown to you?

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20 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Why not simply ask him?

Money is, of course, fungible. That is one of the problems with the holidays today here.

Cruiser's avatar

I would give him a gift of his fav hobby or activity. My dad is 78, has all the money he needs and has every golf gizmo ever made. So I got him a new swim suit to replace the one he has had since the 70’s and a hoodie from his alma mata.

Coloma's avatar

Depends non his interests. You could send him a gift card for a hobby store or Home Depot if he is a tinkerer. Maybe a magazine subscription or newspaper sub. A gift card for something he nevers treats himself to like a steak and lobster dinner at Sizzler or Red Lobster, or whatever steak and seafood chain in his area. Maybe a DVD set on something he is interested in like history, world wars, trains, whatever. Lots of choices depending on his preferences. Father knows best! haha

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

It’s so difficult to buy gifts for adults, who already have everything that they need or want. That’s probably the very reason why your father always gives you a check; he has no idea what to get for you, and he hope that you’ll use the money for something you enjoy.

Most dads would be a bit insulted, perhaps even somewhat hurt, to receive monetary gifts from their children. No matter how old you might be, that’s simply not the way that money’s supposed to flow between a father and his kid. It’s important not to diminish your dad’s sense of fatherhood.

How about something edible? If your father enjoys beer, you could find a few six-packs from microbreweries. If he’s a wine fan, there are so many great choices. If he likes fresh fruit, you could arrange for several months of automatic deliveries.

How about theatre, concert, or sports tickets? If you buy 2 tickets, you can attend the event with him; that might be the greatest gift of all.

zensky's avatar

I agree with ^ pretty much; money is not the way to go. Does he collect anything? Mugs? Pens? Hawaii_Jake’s kids got him tickets to a musical – which means double the pleasure as he gets to go out with them, too. Tix to the opera/ballet/sporting event?

A really nice hand-written card melts my heart every time. My daughter said that she didn’t want to get me a present because it’s basically my money. But she wrote a nice card and that is plenty for this old dad.

livelaughlove21's avatar

I wouldn’t do money or a gift card, just because it would be as if you’re sending his gift back in a different form. I would buy him an actual gift that he’d like, regardless of the price compared to what he sent.

gailcalled's avatar

We used to give my very old but vigorous grandfather monogrammed old-fashioned sleeveless undershirts and designer kosher dill pickles, from the factory.

We gave my father, year after year, ties and bottles of Bay Rum aftershave. If he were alive today, I’d give him compendiums of the NYT Sunday crossword puzzles.

And I’d give my grandfather bags of food and treats for his Great Danes, the honey monkey, and the parrot named Adolph, and apples and carrots for his horses.

wildpotato's avatar

I keep my eyes open throughout the year for anything that makes me think, “Dad would really like that,” and that is either an upgrade of something he already has or is something he doesn’t have to go out of his way at all to use, since he has most everything he already knows he wants and little time to use the stuff he does have. This year I found a tape measure carved from a single piece of pretty wood (he uses one of the throwaway plastic ones already for work) and a camping/lumbar/airplane pillow (again, an “upgrade” gift). The latter also falls into the category of gifts I picked because I already owned one and discovered it way more useful than I had anticipated, which is another good way to think of gift ideas. I can’t wait till this comes out next year – it’s gonna be the ultimate upgrade gift, since he is a neurologist and just bought himself a new bike). Thanks to hearkat, who posted about this nifty product. A great thing I’ve given in the past that is sort of a gift card but sidesteps the “amount of money” thing is three or six months of an Audible or Netflix account.

@gailcalled Designer kosher dill pickles from the factory? Dad would really like that! Are these still around? A quick Google didn’t turn up much.

hearkat's avatar

I simply stopped accepting my father’s checks, and put them through the shredder. This was after I had decided to stop attempting to have a relationship with him (after numerous disappointments), so the circumstances were clearly different.

This quandary is also the reason why I’ve stopped having anything to do with gift exchanges. I tell people that I am fortunate to have everything I want and need – besides which, I am picky – so I’d rather they bought themselves a gift instead, and join us for a delicious meal and some conversation. Again, this doesn’t work in your specific situation… perhaps instead you could both contribute to a fund that will allow one of you to visit the other?

If, like @wildpotato mentions, I come across something that I know someone would like, I will buy it for them and give it to them immediately, not wait for some date on a calendar… after all, none of us can be sure that we will see that day, so why wait?

@wildpotato: cool! I haven’t even looked closely at the product, I just knew it related to that other comment someone else had made. I’m always glad to be helpful, even when I don’t know it!

Jeruba's avatar


Here’s something I did one time, to great success. My mother and I were on opposite coasts. I made arrangements with a restaurant near her home, one I knew she liked: a meal of her choice for her and her husband, everything from appetizers to dessert, plus a 20% gratuity, all to be on my credit card. When I had set it up, I gave her the contact person’s name and let her choose her own date.

They had a lavish meal, the staff made a fuss over them and treated them to excellent service, and they said they had a great time.

marinelife's avatar

Does he have a favorite liquor or a food item he really likes?

gailcalled's avatar

@wildpotato: The pickle factory was in Miami, FL, during the late 1940’s and early 50’s. That’s all I can remember, other than the smell of brine and garlic. My grandfather had them in a wooden barrel in the kitchen, much to my grandmother’s annoyance.

filmfann's avatar

Send him something wonderful that is local to you.
If you live in Vermont, send him some local Maple Syrup.
You get the idea.

Brian1946's avatar

My guess is that since ETpro is about 68 years old and he starts his details by referring to his father in the past tense, exchanging gifts with his dad might no longer a concern. If I am wrong, please accept my apologies.

Brian1946's avatar

My dad used to do the same for me. I was usually able to give him a gift that was less expensive but personally meaningful to him. One Xmas I got him a book of editorial cartoons by one of his favorites, Paul Conrad.

Another book that I gave him that he enjoyed was this one, by Al Franken.

ucme's avatar

A wry grin?
Sorry, make that a dry gin :¬)

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
ETpro's avatar

@gailcalled I can’t ask dad, because the died 6 years ago at the ripe old age of 99. So this question was really for those still grappling with this dilemma.

@Cruiser Enjoy your dad while he’s still around. My dad was in similar straits. And I went with similar gifts, although golf was never a passion of his.

@Coloma Great suggestions for others. I should have made it clear this is an academic study in my case, as my dad is no longer with me.

@PaulSadieMartin Great gift ideas. My dad was a total teetotaler, but the thanks for the thoughts.

@zensky I used to be a good enough artist that I could hand craft a card. But now dad’s gone and I’m so spoiled with computer graphics I hardly know which end of an artist’s brush to dip in the paint.

@livelaughlove21 Makes sense. Thanks.

@gailcalled All very personalized gifts aimed at things you knew they would appreciate. Thanks.

@wildpotato Good luck finding the perfect gift this year.

@hearkat My situation wasn’t all the dissimilar. Dad kicked me out of the house at 17. Then after mom died and I was doing fine on my own living on the West Coast, he called me numerous times crying and telling me how lonely he was without mom. He begged me to move back to Virginia, which I did. Then less than a year after getting back there he met a gold-digger who had already gone through two other men’s fortunes, and married her. Within a couple of months of that, he asked me to move out again.

@Jeruba That reminds me. My wife’s sister sent her a Christmas Package that arrived in November. She said nothing about what was in it, so we kept it unopened till Christmas day. It was persimmons, a fruit we both dearly love, but that was in total meltdown after over a month in the box. :-)

@marinelife He really hasn’t expressed any interest in food or drink since he died.

@filmfann That’s a great idea for my living gift list. Thanks.

@Brian1946 You, for one, read the question details with open eyes. Thanks. I wish now I had made the situation clearer. And those were great gift ideas. Thanks. I can apply that thinking to my current gift list.

@ucme As he was a teetotaler, the former would have been a better fit. Proving that occasionally, when the prevailing wind is strong, the fruit does fall far from the tree.

marinelife's avatar

@ETpro I’m sorry that I missed that aspect of your question.

ETpro's avatar

@marinelife In return, I’m sorry if response was undiplomatic.

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